1
Introduction
government practice
and the place of gaza
Gcrisis
aza has had more than its share of di≈cult times and
conditions. It is often described as, and has often
seemed to be, on the verge of being ungovernable. Yet it also has had, if
anything, a surfeit of government. While one can easily imagine the security
concerns that mobilize certain extraordinary government measures, the ev-
eryday work of government continues even (and sometimes especially) in
crisis conditions. What constitutes such everyday work is to a considerable
degree shaped by the situation itself. Under certain conditions—such as
those pertaining in Gaza after 1948—providing daily rations to refugees
becomes part of everyday government work. Similarly, in other settings—
such as the Gaza of the 1920s—public utilities such as electricity are not part
of this field. The terrain explored in this book—a historical ethnography of
the civil service in Gaza during the British Mandate (1917–48)∞ and Egyptian
Administration (1948–67)—is persistent conflict and ongoing tension as
well as ordinary bureaucratic procedures and unremarkable o≈ce work.
Consideration of this slice of Gazan history highlights the tremendous sig-
nificance of such quotidian bureaucratic practices even in unstable places.
Even with all of the changes in Gaza over the course of the fifty years
under consideration here (as well as before and after) and the crises that
produced and accompanied them, there have been important continuities in
its government. This persistence of government attests to the fundamental
correctness of Max Weber’s insights into the role of bureaucracy in produc-
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